Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Focus on your goal. But not too hard.

The WBC World Middleweight championship was by no means a given result but Taylor, the American, was talking it up big: he wanted to put Froch "to sleep". And so it was that Froch in the last round was staring at a 106-102 deficit and although he'd been knocked down (for the first time in his career) but not put to sleep it was all over bar the shouting.

But it wasn't. Froch said later in an interview (radio 2, Chris Evans, 29-4-09) that as long as there was one round left he was in the fight. He knew he had to do something special: knock Taylor out or stop him dead a couple of times, and his trainer, rather than putting pressure on him and telling him to knock the guy out, said he needed a special round...

Froch rocked the challenger but maintained that he didn't want to rush straight back in instead he literally boxed clever and finally clobbered Taylor with a "booming right" leaving him on jelly legs. The fight was stopped with seconds to go. Good job too looking at Taylor's eyes rolling in his head. Technical Knock Out to Froch.

Amazing example of keeping one's cool and not grasping at victory. Often that final grasping can be the undoing. I've been in fights when I've been winning (just) and lost it all by flailing at it, not seeing the clarity of the situation. Equally if you're behind, like Froch was, it's good to see the opportunity of a last round, a last few minutes to box clever and still be able to do the job. As Froch proved it's not over till the fat lady sings, bows and heads off for the changing room to tuck into the pies.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Hard breathing.

It was a rough, hard session tonight and I'm partly to blame. I took the warm-ups and my obsession with burpees seems to have set the tone for the whole evening! Master Campbell took us through a rigorous examination of jumping techniques. This meant lots of repetitions with ahp chagi, ee dan ahp chagi, deah ahp chagi, dwi dollyo chagi. That's one set! I found it hard work and I was breathing hard so I concentrated on correct breath, deep breath and breathing throughout the technique. It's very tempting to suck in breath for jump kicks but this is unwise. Especially if you have a gruelling 25 minutes of consecutive jumping ahead. I tried to breathe as evenly as possible throughout and when I was really paggered (tired!) I controlled my breath making sure I got plenty of air in. I find there's no point in hiding one's tiredness by toughing it out and breathing in a shallow manner to look macho. This robs you of the oxygen for the next set of reps and makes you head for the floor, face first.

Made a cracking dollyo chagi, ee dan dwi chagi combination on 'Bob'. 

Monday, 27 April 2009

I love burpees

Yup. I love 'em. And Phil (thanks PMY) knows it which is why he sent me this link:-

This is a fun site documenting some people's obsession/commitment to doing one burpee on day one, two burpees on day two and so on till achieving one hundred!

I enjoy doing a slow burpee with a press up half way through and instead of leaping into the air I bring my hands above my head and do some dynamic tension low blocks on the way down. If I do venture into the jumping style I can't do more than 15 correctly.

Maybe it's time for a 100 day burpee challenge...anyone?

Sunday, 26 April 2009

An introduction to Japanese armour and swords

I spent the day in town looking for martial arts books and came away with an armful! I'll post a review when I've finished them but as a quick Sunday night post here are the references for two slim publications I picked up from the Royal Armouries.  At about 36 pages each they're not too detailed but they are really great introductions (as their names imply) and I found them incredibly well laid out and easy to digest. There's a great description and graphic of how the swords are made.

An introduction to Japanese swords

Both by Ian Bottomley available from the Royal Armouries website.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Sunny run and jumping kicks

I went for the lake run on Friday and as I was jogging round I tried spicing it up with some knee raises to prepare for a jumping front kick (ee dan ahp chagi). Little did I know that these exercises have a name! I was mooching around on YouTube and found this, it's pretty much what I was doing (although not as sharp) and called the Quick Step Drill :

And today I was playing with ee dan ahp chagi in the garden and was looking at distance covered. The distance I covered in a non-forced jump front kick was 2metres 25 (2 metres 50 with a walking prelude-this is more aggressive but not running). That's the distance covered over the ground (which I was going for), not in height. I was also trying to see whether getting the knee higher would make the kick higher, but my experiments seem inconclusive: I was kicking ~1metre 80 for both the normal knee raise prelude and the high knee prelude. Oh well. I think more importantly is the speed of this first action (the step up with the non-kicking leg).

Plus there has to be a fluid motion right through from the first step through the leg change and into the kick. It's ok to break it down for beginners but fairly soon they should practice the entire movement to avoid a: knee raise-pause-lurch upwards-kick off back leg. The momentum really helps. Sensei DD made a good point in that the first 'feint' should be convincing. It's pointless to make a cursory flash with the first foot raise. Maybe this is the important reason for raising that knee high in the first place. Who wants to kick higher than 1metre 80 anyway!?

Another interesting running drill to try from Jabari Pride, which may help out with kicking:

Stay on target!

Thought of this while doing some work: I was flitting around all over the place. Needed to stay on target...

Gold Two: [the Y-wings are running the gauntlet toward the Death Star reactor-port] The guns - they've stopped! 
Gold Five: [realizes why] Stabilize your rear deflectors... Watch for enemy fighters. 
Gold Leader: They're coming in! Three marks at 2-10! 
[Gold Two is slain by Darth Vader and his wingmen; Gold Leader starts to panic] 
Gold Leader: It's no good, I can't manouever! 
Gold Five: Stay on target
Gold Leader: *We're too close!* 
Gold Five: Stay on target
Gold Leader: [shouts] Loosen up! 
[he too is picked off by Vader and Company; Gold Five tries to escape but is fatally winged] 
Gold Five: Gold Five to Red leader, lost Tiree, lost Dutch. 
Red Leader: I copy, Gold Leader.

Kiai in the zone

Check out this crazy kendoka who seems to be in the zone emitting some strange kiais and delivering one-handed cuts. I don't know how common one-handed cuts are in Kendo-certainly his opponent doesn't seem that bothered about it. Great example of aggressive focus though. Reminds me of a competition I had where, before the bout, I could see my opponent felt upbeat and dismissive of me. Actually though I was all over him. My kihaps were clear, strong and I dominated the match. Afterwards he was gracious enough to congratulate me and made particular note of the kihap usage. 

If anyone knows more about one-handed kendo strikes, please comment!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Iai-hiza hurts. It's Official!

Anyone familiar with iai will know that kneeling in seiza for long periods hurts like hell. Yes ok we all use knee pads but it still hurts the thighs (we can train that) and the joints of the knees, ankles and feet. Once we reach the fourth of the seitei iai kata, tsuka-ate, we reach a whole new level of pain. That pain is called iai-hiza.

Iai hiza is a seated position whereby the left leg is bent under oneself with the shin on the floor and the heel on your bum-hole (more or less) while the right foot rests on the floor with the leg bent upward. Ouch.

So when you're kneeling there wondering why, as a gaijin, you're even bothering to try to master this very Japanese martial art, you can rest assured that it's not your *fault* that it hurts. And it'll probably always hurt because we're just built differently. That's right we have different sized (and proportioned) lower legs! It's official too : I found this article called 'Anthropometric Comparison between Japanese and Caucasian American Male University Students' by Yasuto Nakanishi and Vincent Nethery. Their broad conculsion is that there are clear anthropometric differences between Japanese and Caucasian American males particularly Japanese having shorting standing height (ok I could've guessed that) and longer trunk to standing ratio. In a nutshell this means less in the leg department. Japanese calves are shorter but more importantly for iai-hiza their calf to height ratio is less than their American male counterparts. Hey presto: Japanese can sit more easily in iai-hiza (hey it was invented by them) while my gaijin lower legs protrude into my bum and stop me from sitting correctly.

Of course there are other issues too which I assume are common such as joint pain but at least we can know why we feel that pain in the ass.

Aw quit griping and keep practicing...

Ref: Anthropometric Comparison between Japanese and Caucasian
American Male University Students
Yasuto Nakanishi and Vincent Nethery
Department of Science, Kobe University.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Age is a number...

...not a fitness index.

Seb Coe and Gary Lineker featured on the Today programme this morning (Click here to open an audio file of the feature) speaking about age in sporting achievements. This was all prompted by the fact that Steve Davis is competing at the crucible in the World Snooker Championships. Don't get me wrong: watching snooker is as dull as ditch water BUT the question remains-is Steve Davis, at 51, past it? Well he certainly hasn't won the championship in quite some time (World championship since the eighties and other major events since the nineties) and as Lineker points out in this radio piece Davis' eyesight may not be what it was and his nerves might get to him more nowadays!

Coe (someone I see as being intensely competitive and who in a recent interview said that during his training schedule one Christmas Day the mere thought of his rival *potentially* training a second time that day forced him back out on the track) was a little more philosophical about age: Age is a number, not a fitness index. Mental attitude and determination can get us a long way.

Lineker however moves in for the coup de grace and points out that most professional (association) footballers and rugby footballers performances decline after the age of 30. You can't cheat the ageing process!

He's right of course: our physical abilities do tend to decline at about that age and if we're not a professional footballer by then, well there's always snooker. However...I did meet a Tang Soo Do practitioner in his seventies who assured me that building up the muscles around the knee help protect it from the ravages of age. And there is always mental attitude. Check out Michele's blog about a spunky septuagenarian!

Martial artists' physique may decline with age but their experience increases and experience counts for a lot. Knowing the techniques intimately helps you naturally flow through moves and counters as your body has already 'memorised' these structures. As long as your memory is ok...! Check out Dan's blog here showing technique in an older martial artist.

But hey, even if you don't like snooker you can always take up something sedate like Tai Chi for example. Right? Right?

Monday, 20 April 2009

Martial Arts Festival - Wayne Swietoslawski

I met Wayne at the MAF-UK the other week and I decided to blog about him as he is a genuine guy who is now applying himself to full time martial arts training and teaching.

Wayne has an impressive martial arts CV and as well as holding several black belts has trained throughout the world with outstanding martial artists but what really struck a chord with me was the tagline Wayne uses: Training for Life. Wayne trains all the time. And I mean ALL the time! So the phrase Training for Life covers the way he considers that training in the martial arts is his life but it also makes him (/us?) ready for life. Training helps us deal with life. This can be on a practical, physical level or an emotional or 'spiritual' level: it keeps us fit for life and hones our minds.

As soon as Wayne's site is up and live I'll post it here.

Royal Armouries, Leeds

Somewhere I've often thought would be a great day out would be the Royal Armouries, Leeds and as I was passing the other day I took the opportunity to stop. I did have the kids in tow so I took a bit of a punt but the upshot was a day we all enjoyed!

Of course I didn't get see half of what I wanted to as I really was 'on duty' but as this place covers 4 floors with two main sections per floor I think I'll be visiting again for a full day without kids! Having said that I feared that the museum was going to be an 'experience' and more directed towards kids entertainment with too many interactive features for the younger visitor. Not at all I found: there was a good mix of 'grown-up' pieces as well as talks by 'storytellers' about armour and archers and on the day we visited there was a joust! Amazing: The Royal Armouries has an outside arena for horse mounted japes such as this St George's celebration joust. It was a great bit of theatre and fun entertainment but impressive to see these guys in full armour displaying horse and fighting skills.

Jousting was a popular accompaniment to medieval tournaments which helped Knights hone their martial skills. I suppose like modern martial arts competitions and tournaments it was a good way to pressure-test technique. Although I find competing quite a scary experience it helps you look deeply at your technique in the run up to the event and also exposes you to nerves and adrenaline during the competition. Learnign to deal with nerves is an important aspect to martial arts and a good tool for life.

Having said that the jousting, for me, seemed sedate but was fascinating to watch and I can't wait for my next visit to the Royal Armouries! (No, I'm not being sponsored by them!)

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Looking at things differently

It struck me as I was gasping my way on a run along the sand dunes that some things can be seen in different ways.

Above is how I saw it on the way out: the unearthly grunting is my laboured breath as I go pelting along the narrow paths, taking sharp turns as the way is narrow and unpredictable. It's great to exercise and feel the sweat forming on your brow, your body aching, telling you to stop but really I know my body can do much more. As I descend steep dunes my legs automatically adjust to the speed and I find myself coursing down at much higher speed than I normally manage. So I know I can do it. My body has told me this. It's a frantic run though and I am tired (and a bit hungover, dammit) but I love this sharp cold North sea air pinching my at my face. 

Then there's the pay off. This is another way of seeing the same stretch of beach and dunes: calmness. 

The crashing of the waves is soothing, its pulsing is lulling me into a feeling of safety and serenity. Even the industry at Tees mouth isn't going to spoil this calm moment for me. It's the same place but different approaches. Rush through life or meditate on it. Or both.

To top it off I see a lone oyster catcher on the way back and he's calmly pondering the water's edge. Wonderful.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Lean Manufacturing and Kaizen

In a previous life I studied Production management and one thing I was completely enthralled with was the idea of Quality and the management of lean production. Lean production as the name suggests endeavours to reduce waste in the manufacturing process. What a fantastic idea, I thought, to be able to solely concentrate on the delivery of value to the customer and at the same time reduce wasted effort and resources. Streamlining at its best!

Kaizen is a related topic and can be applied within the whole idea of lean production and focuses on continual improvement. The idea is that efficiency can be reached by making small improvements all the time. These improvements can be gradual but there is a common goal (within business) towards driving the process towards efficiency of work patterns and delivering quality to the customer. My good friend NAS works for Danaher (who say on their website "Kaizen is our way of life") and he told me he went to a Kaizen seminar with a Japanese sensei! (NAS, please comment!)

You guys are way ahead of me, but just in case, check this out...

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Martial Arts Festival - Canemasters

Poor old fella there with his walking cane. Probably couldn't handle himself if anyone attacked him huh? Well canemasters aims to prove otherwise: a self defence system worked around the walking cane.

As a practitioner of Tang Soo Do I'd seen a Master's cane form and my own Master told me how he upon flying to an international seminar was obliged to check all weapons into the hold but was let onto the aircraft with his cane...! Mark Shuey, the founder of Canemasters, unsurprisingly holds a Tang Soo Do black belt as well as in Hapkido too where he first saw the cane being used in self defence.

Canemasters take this idea to the next level and have developed an entire self defence system. Certainly the added leverage goes a long way when using the cane and getting whacked by a cane which can be whipped round at a fair lick would really smart. I did have a slight problem and this was that these guys happily carried the cane around with them as a side arm and not as an aid to walking. "It's got me out of trouble a couple of times", said the seminar leader.

Hmmm. Maybe I'll take my tonfa out into town next week and see what happens...

Here is a rather limp version of the Tang Soo Do Ji pan gi hyung:

Zen in the Art of Archery

I finished reading Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel soon after I started reading it. Not because it's rubbish but because it's a slim book and a brisk read with plenty to chew on. At times Herrigel gets a bit caught up in the whole Zen idea of one's position of self in the world and also it having been translated from German in 1953 meant that in places it was hard going. Such a great read about a trainee Kyudoka in Japan in the early 1920s. Fantastic insight into not only the training regimen but the mental difficulties and obstacles to be encountered along the way. This gives much food for thought about my own journey in the martial arts. For me, I concluded from the story that:

a. I think (and worry) too much,
b. I don't train enough. 

Maybe I should blog less and train more. That's certainly an idea!

Herrigel was a philosophy lecturer and by his own admission was fascinated by Zen and as such peppers the book with ideas of how his kyudo teacher would impart Zen wisdom on him. Trouble is that his teacher, Awa Keno, was not a Zen Buddhist. What he taught was the 'Great Doctrine' or Daishakyôdô (The Way of the Great Doctrine of Shooting) which Herrigel and a Japanese writer on Zen (D. T. Suzuki) maintained was Zen much later and without advice of Awa Sensei!

It's certainly a good (brief) insight into training methods in the martial arts but from what I understand from reading around Herrigel, the aspects of Zen should be taken with a pinch of salt. Check out this article which states:

As we were walking out the front of the building, I asked our host, "Did Awa write anything, anything I could read?"

"No," he said. "There is nothing. And that German fellow, is a bad, very bad influence."

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Martial Arts Festival - Krav Maga

Straightforward and no nonsense self defence against empty hand and weapons. Seems very effective, direct and energetic. The seminar I attended covered 3 or 4 techniques and the teacher managed to get us all executing them effectively immediately (granted most of the attendees were probably practicing martial artists). Especially neat was the 'scan' after the techniques. After effecting the moves on your opponent (be it neutralising or stopping the attack short) scan around for other potential attacks. 

Check out the website:
I was taught the seminar by a friendly Vin Diesel look-a-like called Nick Maison who was approachable and business like and seemed very sharp in technique.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

He who hesitates is lost

Ok so I was going to make it (s)he who hesitates... but it sort of spoils the title bar...:-)

I find that London is never as busy as in Easter week. Kids are off school and there are thousands of French tourists. We added to the quota with our family and our French friends and we all bumbled around the sites enjoying the typically overcast-in-April day. When we arrived in Covent Garden we hit maximum crowdage. Couldn't move. Country bumpkin Littlefair, here,  didn't know where to turn. At one point I set off one way realised I was on a collision course with a commuter with a mean glint in her eye and thought twice about it so I did a bit of a jig, falling over myself and had to change course, twice in half a second. The hard-eyed commuter slightly changed her trajectory, readjusted and was off probably accustomed to this strange country dance that the bumpkins bring to the City.

Iai is about focus, as are many other martial arts. But especially iai. Focusing on your enemy and your strike is imperative. Sometimes you are aware of other attackers but you choose first and then  strike hard, with conviction and complete focus. Making this first cut your consuming aim is essential. If this first attacker isn't dealt with correctly and with all your attention then there won't be a chance to shift your focus to the second or the third. That's not to say you shouldn't have an all round awareness of the other attackers on the periphery but you must kill the first enemy with conviction. No dancing around or fumbling. No half committing to first attacker then half way in thinking maybe it's a mistake and dithering over the second attacker without having even finished the first. Bad idea. Strike forward with meaning, readjust strike out again.

Otherwise you might end up with a face full of commuter.

Blitz memorial at St Paul's Cathedral.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Qi Kwan Do

Anybody ever heard of Qi Kwan Do?

Check out Master Parisi's bio:

He's talking it up big time but it looks like an awful amateurish setup.
But hey what do I know. 

Martial Arts Mastery is Just One Click Away...

Monday, 6 April 2009

Martial Arts Festival - capoeira

Fun in the sun with the capoeira team. They always seem smiley and enjoying themselves as they sing, play music, dance and spar. Led by Pedro Albuquerque:

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Martial Arts Festival - iai

This demo was lead by Hanshi Mike Selvey and as well as some iaido kata the guys treated us to some iai-jutsu kata and koryu kata as well as some tameshigiri (test cutting)-always interesting to see! The dojo site can be found here:

Martial Arts Festival, Leicester

as I pulled up at the Parklands leisure centre, Leicester, I realised the MAF-UK was going to be quite a big festival! There was a shuttle bus laid from the car park (which I had to pay another fiver for!) but it was well organised and ran smoothly so we were at the door soon after. Not sure what to expect I scanned the programme which seemed crammed! Two outdoor demo areas and one inside as well as two indoor seminar rooms meant there was plenty to see (although the indoor demo area was extremely impractical and you didn't get to see much!). 

It seemed a fairly nice atmosphere but there were plenty of guys strutting around looking like they'd had a ramrod inserted up their backs and that they were incapable of walking without swinging their shoulders forward outrageously. Strut, strut, strut. But this was, I'm glad to say, in the minority.

I made my way straight to the main hall and had only had made 5 steps in when I got chatting to a guy who was promoting his sensei and club: Wayne Swietoslawski of Waskido Ryu Ju Jitsu who was eager to tell me about his art. I took to Wayne and we got chatting about canes so he led me off to a seminar by canemasters: a self-defence programme based on walking canes. 

Following this I went straight to a Krav Maga seminar which focused on effective self-defence tools. this system struck me (unsurprisingly) similar to Systema but I guess experienced practitioners of either may disagree. Fundamentally it's quite a flexible and 'free' system with key principles underpinning different scenarios. We worked on stopping the attack early and ground work. As well as scanning for other opponents-very useful I thought.

Back in the main hall I bought my pair of Feivue's which I've been after for some time and saw Iain Abernethy on a stand! After I heard from his accent that he was a Northerner I had to stop and chat. What a friendly guy and although I didn't buy anything from him he still had time to chat with me about what he's up to, his dojo, Harry Cooke and the meaning of life. Great interlude to the day's seminars...

I strolled out into the sun to the outdoor arenas and watched capoeira, iai demo with some tameshigiri and finished the day by watching the krav maga demo.

A full day but I managed to have a cuppa in the sun and take lots of cool photos and meet some good folk. I'll document some of these things in more detail soon once I've downloaded photos and sorted them:

- Iai

Friday, 3 April 2009

The budo charter

I bought an Ozzy Osborne CD the other day and immediately put on Crazy Train. Reminds me of my youth when I'd listen to lots of heavy metal. Smashing. You don't half get the hoovernig done quicker with rock music playing! This particular CD was Ozzy Osborne Live at the Budokan. Hmmm. Budo kan. I'll have to google that. There's not much in English out there apart from a wikipedia entry telling of how the hall was built for the 1964 Olympics but is now mostly known for concerts such as Ozzy's. When I further googled Budokan English pages I came up with this: The Budo charter...

Call me naive (actually I'd rather you didn't) but I didn't realise that there was a budo charter covering Japanese budo (of which Shorinji Kempo is one). I often study the philosophy of shorinji kempo and it covers much of what is laid out in the charter below but this idea of promoting an overall vision for Japanese budo was new to me. It's quite a unifying feeling that I can sit next to a Judoka and feel as if, through different techniques, we have underlying broad goals.

The Japanese Budo Association (Nippon  Budo Kyogikai) states in its preamble to the charter, "a recent trend towards infatuation just with technical ability compounded by an excessive concern with winning is a severe threat to the essence of budo".  This charter seems to bring the idea of character building through physical training into a global vision.

Check it out and see if this fits in with your training pattern- or not.

Through physical and mental training in the Japanese martial ways, budo exponents seek to build their character, enhance their sense of judgement, and become disciplined individuals capable of making contributions to society at large.

ARTICLE 2:KEIKO (Training)
When training in budo , practitioners must always act with respect and courtesy, adhere to the prescribed fundamentals of the art, and resist the temptation to pursue mere technical skill rather than strive towards the perfect unity of mind, body, and technique.

ARTICLE 3:SHIAI (Competition)
Whether competing in a match or doing set forms (kata), exponents must externalise the spirit underlying budo. They must do their best at all times, winning with modesty, accepting defeat gracefully, and constantly exhibiting self-control.

ARTICLE 4:DOJO (Training Hall)
The dojo is a special place for training the mind and body. In the dojo, budo practitioners must maintain discipline, and show proper courtesies and respect. 
The dojo should be a quiet, clean, safe, and solemn environment.

Teachers of budo should always encourage others to also strive to better themselves and diligently train their minds and bodies, while continuing to further their understanding of the technical principles of budo. Teachers should not allow focus to be put on winning or losing in competition, or on technical ability alone. Above all, teachers have a responsibility to set an example as role models.

Persons promoting budo must maintain an open-minded and international perspective as they uphold traditional values. They should make efforts to contribute to research and teaching, and do their utmost to advance budo in every way.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Indian VC who stuck to his gun

"The regimental machinegun section of the 129th...was placed in the portion of the defence held by the 6th Lancers.

Man after man was hit but the brave detachment continued to serve their guns, inflicting severe loss on the enemy....The enemy afforded an excellent target and the gun did much execution.

The heroic gun team, fighting tioll the last, were bayonetted at their posts, Khudadad Khan, the sole survivor, though badly wounded, managed after a time to rejoin his company, but did not quit his gun till he had ensured it would be valueless to the enemy."

An abridged version of the report in The Times of 27th January, 1915, headed, "Two Indian VCs".
Khudadad Khan won the Victoria Cross and returned home to India.